Sometimes you get lucky, and so it was with me when I was assigned to write an article about an extraordinary 1939 Talbot Lago that is currently under restoration at the RM shops in Chatham, Ontario. Lucky, that is, because I happened to be in Toronto on a family visit and could take time to journey to Chatham and see the car in the metal.
I'm not going to reveal the details in this blog. That can wait until the restoration is complete and the story can be told in full. So for now you'll have to be content with the photo above. If nothing else it shows just how voluptuous those pre-war French cars could be, especially when the body is designed and built by Figoni and Falaschi.
It was a privilege to watch the RM craftsmen do their work, for these people are artists, truly dedicated to achieving perfection in bringing classic cars back to their original state. When this Talbot is finished, every detail will be exactly as it was when new. Created more than 70 years go by men who were equally determined that each car should be a work of art and sometimes inserted their "signature" in subtle ways.
If ever you have the opportunity to visit RM, I heartily recommend the trip. You may not get as up close and personal as Colin Hefferon and I did but you can spend hours strolling through the RM Museum in the company of a knowledgeable guide. With up to 100 cars on display it's a constantly changing scene. Unlike other museums where the cars are more or less permanent, this one is populated by vehicles in temporary storage, by others awaiting restoration, and others soon to be on their way to auction.
We saw, in addition to several renowned Bugattis, one of the most famous of all classics, a 1939 Lagonda Rapide Boattail Racer with a body made entirely of tulipwood. I'd seen this beauty in photos before but actually standing in front of the car left me awestruck. With hundreds of brass rivets laid in perfect rows to fasten the tulipwood to the chassis, you have to see it to believe it.
If your taste runs to vintage motorcycles you'll find them in the museum, too. Or a famous hot rod. Or even a classic intercity bus. I'm not exactly sure what I'd do with a bus but the latter appeals to me and if it could be outfitted as a mobile home and I could afford a skilled driver I might travel the country visiting concours and other car museums.
Finally, I must say a word on behalf of a transit system we could afford to use: Via Rail. The drive from Toronto is long (4 hours each way), straight, and boring, on an expressway noted for its traffic jams, so Colin and I made the trip by train. We're both "railfans" thus it was a pleasure to climb aboard, relax, read, enjoy a snack, and arrive rested. I heartily recommend it and wish such train service was available from my home in British Columbia.
[Photos: Philip Powell]